- Aging & Longevity
The Retirement Village
(If looking for Indian Retirement Home, please read:
You buy a quarter acre block of land in a good residential area. Build a modern house having 3-4 bedrooms, lounge room, dining room, modern kitchen, family room, rumpus room, a study and a 2-3 cars garage. There is a big backyard with swimming pool. You have planted varieties of plants and the garden looks beautiful with colorful flowers and fruit trees. You have eventually what you call your ‘Dream Home’. You have now settled down to raise and look after a family.
You work hard day and night to earn money and bring prosperity in the house. The life remained busy in raising and providing education and culture to your children. Children’s extra-curriculum activities like sports, music, swimming, painting, drama, dance, etc. kept you both parents busy running around here and there.
The children finished the education, found the jobs or professions of their choice, got married or did not want to marry and left you to build their own life. Now you are again alone, just two of you, the way you were, when you built this big house. The pleasant fragrance of the sweet memories of the children’s activities is still floating around the house, but there is no more any pleasure because of their absence.
Soon you come to that point of your life when you ‘call it a quit’ and retire from the active life of your job or profession. All the routine activities of your life have suddenly disappeared. Those days are gone when relatives and friends were regularly visiting you. You had parties, meetings, musical nights, social gatherings, discussions and arguments, but you have no more energy to continue those.
Your life is now in that small corner of the house comprising kitchen, family-room and bedroom. The rest of the house is unoccupied and useless, only adding to your burden for keeping it clean. You do not have enough energy even to look after those plants which you so fondly and lovingly planted and nourished. The weeds around the garden are getting bigger and stronger. The struggle to remove the weeds and keep garden nit and tidy is very tiring and frustrating. Help is available, but it will be expensive.
You are advised by relatives, friends and well wishing club members that it is time you consider moving out of this big house and move into a small comfortably managed place.
Retired at last
You have retired from active life. Now you have plenty of time, time to enjoy the life. To do and enjoy the things, go and see the places that you could not do before. The body has become old, it gets tired even of small exertion, but the mind is young and it wants to enjoy life. The body can’t walk but the mind wants to run around and dance. The mind wants to go and see movies and dramas, but the eyes get tired. Even the daily chores of preparing your food and keeping the house clean is very tiring and boring at times.
Waiting for Heaven
Many after retirement think, ‘My task is over, job well done, kids have settled happily, now I am ready to die and go to Heaven.’ Instead they should be thinking, ‘Now that I am retired and have no family responsibility, I am going to enjoy life to the fullest in a Heavenly atmosphere.’
Be in Heaven
How nice would it be at that time if you can live in some kind of heavenly atmosphere where you have the company of the people of your age and likings, your needs of health and sustenance are being looked after by friendly people, you get readymade breakfast-lunch-dinner and afternoon tea, entertainment is organized and you are just enjoying life without any worries, any stress. If all these is being taken care of by capable and efficient people, you can live the rest of your life in happiness and enjoyment.
The Last Home
Such a place is called ‘The Last Home’ or ‘A Retirement Village’.
During past three decades such retirement villages are being built in Australia in large numbers. Retirement villages comprising of small number of about 100 to large numbers of more than 250 homes are built or are under construction. Mostly they are one or two bedroom independent houses in a secure compound. In large cities like Melbourne, Sydney, etc. they may be multi storey buildings of apartments. They may have canteen, entertainment hall, gym, swimming pool, meeting hall, etc. Larger the complex more facilities will be there to share.
There are surveillance cameras, burglar alarms, monitoring of visitors to the compound and other high-tech security arrangements to make sure you live in a secure environment free of worries. Group visits to shopping centers, restaurants, clubs, cinemas and long distance outings are organized.
We recently visited one such retirement village. We inspected some of the typical houses that were built there and were ready for occupation. We also had an opportunity to talk to some residents over a cup of coffee in the large and well furnished community hall.
It comprises of 220 one and two bedroom single storey houses. They started building it about five years ago. Over 150 houses are already built and people are living in there. Half of the rest of the houses are pre-sold. People move in as a house is completed.
There is an iron fence around the compound with only one entrance from the main road. The gate is guarded by two surveillance cameras. No hawkers or un-authorized persons, charity collectors or advertisers are allowed in. The visitor, whether pedestrian or in car, must get permission of a resident and must write details in a register to enter.
Every house is built with minimum basic requirement like fully equipped kitchen with gas stove, dishwasher and a refrigerator, a washing machine in the laundry, central heating and air-conditioning, plenty of storage cupboards in kitchen, linen cupboard, wardrobes in bedroom, etc. Phone, internet and cable TV wiring is provided. Thinking of clean environment, solar hot water system and rain water collection is fitted in every house. You can upgrade the solar system to generate some electricity during sunny times of the day. (There is some govt. subsidy available)
The backyard is very small, just for your hobby of pot plants. There is a tool-shed in one corner. If you like it can be covered with lawn or concrete and you can put some garden furniture for your relaxation. The outside landscape is maintained by the management. Varieties of flowering plants and native bushes were planted in the landscape.
There are emergency call buttons at three convenient and easy to reach locations in the house(bedroom, kitchen and hall). If you are too old and not very mobile, you can get a pendant like remote button at small extra cost which you can put on your necklace. If some how you are in trouble just press a button and the help will reach you. The management has a master-key that opens every house. So if you have fallen down and can’t open the door, don’t worry !
The new occupant can move in with personal belongings and start living a comfortable life.
There is a well furnished large community hall for informal gathering. Mostly people come in the evening and spend some time and meet friends. Occasionally some experts are invited to give lectures or information related to the village life style and aged people’s issues.
There is a canteen in the community hall. You can have a cup of coffee or snack or a meal. If you can’t cook your meals you can make arrangement to eat all your meals in the canteen or have them delivered to your house. You can entertain your guests also in the canteen.
There was a swimming pool, a bowling green lane, games room, gym and a library as well where you can sit and read or borrow a book of your choice. Although library was small in size they had made arrangement with the local council library to borrow some books which are kept there for a month so that the aged residents do not have to go all the way to the council library. A mobile library also visited the village once a week.
If sufficient number of people are ready, a bus trip can be arranged to visit the nearest shopping complex, club, restaurant, pizza places, cinemas, etc. In a village of 220 houses, a busload of 45/50 is easy to get. By the way, most shopping complexes have cinemas so a trip can serve double purpose.
For most people living in their home, the problem of security of your house, organising mails, bills etc. is of primary concern and big work when going on a long trip and leaving the house unattended. We have faced this problem many times as we are fond of going on short and long trips. There is no such problem in a secure retirement village. Your house is safe even in your absence and most other problems are taken care of by the management.
This is Heaven
From what we learnt by talking to some of the residents, the general view was that our life is so much relaxed and happy in this village that we wish we had come to such a place earlier.
One widow commented, ‘before coming here my life was so much lonely and boring. But here, I am amongst the interesting and loving friends.’
This certainly is like living in Heaven in this life.
One interesting thing to note about this village. There are people of various faiths and countries in this village. But they all live in harmony.
There is no church, Temple, Masjid or a religious place of any kind.
After-all, who needs that in a Heaven ?
Finally, This is Your Life
If you have saved a few dollars, you will plan to invest it wisely or you will engage a financial planner to do it for you to ensure that you get the best out of it. Your life is much more precious than that. So would you not plan how to get best out of your life ? Think about it and start planning your retirement now.
1 This article was originally written in Gujarati about 3 years ago. This is the modified translation.
2 Please read the follow up article